I’m back from a flying visit overnight visit to Glasgow where I was up mostly causing cyclist-related trouble one way or another. When I was growing up it was a city that seemed to consist entirely of motorways and knife gangs; having set such a low bar it always manages to pleasantly surprise me when I do actually visit and find it’s actually a rather handsome city full of shops, friendly loudmouths, knife gangs and motorways. And the odd cyclist, too.
My task yesterday was to get myself to Siempre Bicycle Cafe for a social meet up involving some of the aforementioned odd cyclists. Now, regular readers of this blog will know that my navigational skills are up there with my bike maintenance skills and my main tactic cycling in most unfamiliar cities is to get myself down to the riverfront, turn left or right as necessary, and hope for the best. This works perfectly well in Glasgow in the daytime (obviously going north or south is a bit tricky) but the Clyde waterfront didn’t really appeal after dark, what with the knife gangs and everything, while the non-river-based directions helpfully sent me by local cyclists were full of scary instructions like ‘the only tricky bit is crossing the motorway, you just have to make sure you get over to the right hand lane and you’ll be fine’). Trying to do that while keeping the right page of the A to Z open was going to be difficult so I was relieved when a kind soul (you should all totally book yourselves on one of his Tartan Rides, by the way) offered to swing by Glasgow Central on his way so we could ride together.
As a bonus, we got to go over Glasgow’s newest piece of cycling-and-walking infrastructure, the Bridge to Nowhere which has recently become the Bridge to Somewhere, or at least the Bridge-that-doesn’t-end-in-a-sheer-20-foot-drop-onto-a-motorway, which I think we can all agree is an improvement. In fact, even on my own I might have managed to find the bridge itself as there is a segregated cycle lane that runs pretty much directly to it from the station which would be almost Dutch if it wasn’t for the fact that the designers appear to have been under the impression that the Dutch cycle design guidelines measure everything in feet instead of metres. It even has its own traffic lights keeping bikes separate from turning traffic, although they do this by waiting until hell freezes over before giving the bikes a green light, rather than (gasp) giving bikes an actual head start over the cars.
The bridge itself is pretty fab though – especially the part where you cycle over all the gridlocked cars on the motorway and laugh because they’re stuck and you’re not and it’s only raining a little bit. And while it’s a little steep on the way down – just at the part where you cross a footpath and risk sending any unlucky pedestrians sprawling – the council have considered that and have spread a nice thick layer of slippery leaves all over the bottom of the ramp so you have to slow down anyway (bet the Dutch never thought of that, eh? No wonder our cycling infrastructure is the envy of the world…). And after that it was back to the cratered streets of Glasgow, dodging buses, cars, vans, drunks and all the other hazards that a city can throw at you.
Still, we survived, and spent a pleasant evening discussing how things could be better (washed down with some well-earned hot chocolate – you know you’re in good hands when your hot drink comes with a little cube of tablet on the saucer instead of a biscuit), and then I got another guided ride north to the outskirts of Glasgow in the dark, while lunatics in cars (and one lunatic dog) attempted to scare the life out of me. If you’re into adrenaline-fuelled white-knuckle rides, I can highly recommend the Greater Glasgow area and a bike. That left today’s trip in which your heroine attempted to get herself from Bishopbriggs to Glasgow Central on a bike and live to tell the tale (spoiler alert: I made it), but that must be a story for another day…